Game Time: 8:00 PM CST | Location: Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena – Fort Worth, TX | TV: Fox Sports SW | Series: SMU leads 106-85 | Game Line: TCU -4.5
The #20 TCU Horned Frogs (8-0) will take on the SMU Mustangs (7-2) Tuesday afternoon, putting the longest winning streak in the country and their undefeated record on the line against a very good opponent. The Frogs have played SMU 192 times, the most of any opponent, and will look to end the Ponies’ five game winning streak in the series.
TCU is coming off a resounding 92-66 beatdown of Yale. Desmond Bane led the team in scoring with 18 points, joined by most of the team in double figures: Jaylen Fisher (17), Alex Robinson (13), Kenrich Williams (12, and another double double), Ahmed Hamdy (12), and JD Miller (11). The team shot a ridiculous 59% from the floor and only turned the ball over nine times. While Yale was a very solid opponent, the Frogs will have their hands full with an SMU squad with an impressive resume.
The Mustangs had a blowout of their own, destroying the #14 USC Trojans 72-55 behind a second half surge (45-25). Shake Milton scored 22 points, joined in double figures by Ben Emelogu (16), Jimmy Whitt (14), and Jarrey Foster (13). SMU shot over 50% from both the field and the three point line, in fact their lowest shooting percentage was free throws at 44% (10-23). SMU also has an impressive win against then-#2 Arizona in the Battle 4 Atlantis, and their two losses are by a combined five points.
When talking about SMU, the focal point of conversation is Shake Milton. He is the team’s leading scorer at 18.7 points per game, and is often talked about as the team’s top NBA prospect. A 6’6 wing, Milton’s worst two games have brought down his overall efficiency on the year and resulted in the team’s two losses. He basically never leaves the floor, playing 37 minutes a game, while shooting a solid 39% from three. The Frogs need to be careful with Milton in order to be successful. Milton is joined in the starting lineup by a trio of efficient scorers: Jarrey Foster, Ethan Chargois, and Ben Emelogu. Foster starts at the 4, and is an efficient scorer who takes care of the basketball. Chargois only plays about 21 minutes a game, but is the team’s primary center and tops the team in rebounding rate. Emelogu, meanwhile, shoots it more rarely than the others, but he is a top 100 player in regards to efficiency, shooting an unreal 58% from three. The final starter for the Ponies is Jimmy Whitt, who runs the point and has no outside game whatsoever (0 attempted threes this year). He passes the ball well and is a solid defender, and he is coming off his two best games of the year against USC and UTRGV.
There is a clear minutes divide between the starters and bench players for SMU, but the best player the Mustangs have off the pine is freshman big man Everett Ray. He is everything you want in a backup big with efficient scoring and good rebounding ability. He has a propensity for turnovers, and recently has seen his minutes reduced. William Douglas and Elijah Landrum are the other two players SMU has in their regular rotation. Douglas is a freshman guard who backs up Milton, and it has been up and down for him as he adjusts to the college pace. The same could be said for the freshman Landrum, who is only shooting 22% so far this year. Overall, the focus on stopping SMU has to focus on their starters, as if their bench is killing you that is a terrible sign.
So far this season, SMU has made their money by slowing down the tempo and playing great defense. Their 92.7 defensive rating is 16th in the country and they rank 341/351 in pace. Just about every team they’ve faced has scored well below their season average, as they effectively contest shots at every level. They also get great ball pressure, forcing turnovers and controlling the paint. SMU will be the longest team that TCU has faced, and the high flying Frogs offense will need to stay patient. Offensively, SMU relies heavily on the three ball to keep the offense afloat. They shoot the long ball at a 42% clip, which is one of the best in the nation, but barely shoot a better percentage (47%) on twos. The big disadvantage of relying on threes is the possibility for opponent transition opportunities, and SMU combats this by crashing the offensive glass (36.6% oReb rate, 26th in country). Overall, this is a very complete team who has the means to go toe-to-toe with any team in the country.
Three Things To Watch For:
Contain Shake Milton
I mentioned it above, but it bears repeating: Shake Milton is very, very good. He is truly the life force that makes the entire Mustangs team run. TCU has struggled in previous games to lock down the opponent’s top offensive threat, and that could pose a big problem against SMU. The rub here is that while containing Milton is important, you also can’t allow him to divert all your attention, as he will hit his marksmen for open threes if you do. Milton is an NBA level talent, definitely the best individual talent the Frogs will see until Big 12 play, so it will be interesting to see how Coach Dixon schemes to handle him.
Run them off the three point line
SMU has great three point shooters, with Milton, Foster, Chargois, Emelogu, and Douglas all at or above 40% shooting from behind the arc. Forcing SMU out of their comfort zone and into the paint on offense would play right into TCU’s hand. Vladimir Brodziansky should have a block party inside, and TCU has remained the nation’s leading team in grabbing defensive rebounds. SMU’s slow pace means they have to maximize every possession, so limiting their three point opportunities will be truly key.
Execute the offense
The SMU defense is stingy, no doubt, but TCU is an elite offense as well. The Frogs have the #8 eFG% in the country, and they’ve gotten it done inside and out. The major advantage the Frogs have is their ability to have many different players score. Not only is it a follow the hot hand kind of offense, the Frogs have also done a much better job taking care of the basketball (only 9 turnovers against Yale). If Alex Robinson isn’t able to go with his ankle injury, Jaylen Fisher will once again have to step up and continue his sophomore year improvement. If TCU can crack the SMU defense by playing their game, it will bode well for their ability to perform in the big games moving forward.
TCU continues its rise in the rankings, but there are some doubters out there saying that the Frogs haven’t played anyone. While I disagree with that assessment, there is no one who could deny that a win over SMU would be a major quality win. I think that all of the ingredients are there for the Frogs to take this one over the Ponies.
It’s not going to be an easy game. The defense is going to need to play its best game so far against Milton, but I think the combined efforts of the TCU backcourt can equalize that matchup. The great thing about this TCU team thus far is that they have very few exploitable weaknesses. While SMU is great, their over reliance on the three will do them in against a TCU team that is on a roll.
Prediction: #20 TCU 72, SMU 67
Here are the game notes, courtesy of GoFrogs.com:
- TCU's last loss was March 10, 2017 against Iowa State in the semifinals of the Big 12 Championships.
- TCU has also won 15 of its last 17 games.
- TCU is one of 13 unbeaten teams in the nation.
- TCU is in the midst of playing six straight opponents that were picked towards the top of their conference in St. Bonaventure (2nd, A10), Belmont (1st, OVC), Yale (2nd, Ivy), SMU (4th, AAC), Nevada (1st, MWC) and Texas Southern (1st, SWAC).
- TCU is ranked No. 20 in the AP Top 25, its highest ranking since 1998. TCU is No. 20 in the USA Today Poll.
- TCU is 23-2 against non-conference opponents under head coach Jamie Dixon (SMU, Auburn).
- TCU is 40-16 all-time as a ranked team, including a 19-2 record at home.
- TCU has started the season 8-0 for the third time in the last four seasons. The Frogs started 13-0 in 2014 and 8-0 in 2016.
- TCU ranks among the national leaders in assists (4th, 20.1), field goal percentage (7th, 52.5), scoring (26th, 86.9) and rebound margin (21st, +9.5).
- After averaging 7.1 points as a freshman last season, Desmond Bane is averaging 14.1 points as a sophomore.
- Kenrich Williams has recorded four-straight double-doubles and is averaging 12.4 points and 10.1 rebounds overall.
- Vladimir Brodziansky ranks 15th in the Big 12 in scoring at 14.4 points per game.
- Brodziansky ranks fifth all-time at TCU in blocked shots with 130. He is three away from fourth and 41 away from the school-record of 171.
- TCU returned its top six scorers from last season's team that went 24-15, finished tied for seventh in the Big 12 and won the NIT, including all five starters. It's the first time Jamie Dixon has had a team with every starter returning from the year before.
- TCU returned 79 percent of its scoring and 79 percent of its rebounding from last season.
- One season after winning its first postseason tournament, TCU will try to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998. Since 1985, 58 percent of the teams that won the NIT made the NCAA Tournament the following season.
About the Opponent
- SMU is coming off a 72-55 win over No. 14 USC on Saturday in Dallas. The Mustangs defeated Arizona earlier this season.
- The Mustangs are led by American Athletic Conference Preseason Player of the Year Shake Milton, who is averaging a team-best 18.7 points per game and had 22 points, nine assists and five rebounds against the Trojans Saturday.
- SMU won the American Athletic Conference regular season and tournament last season and fell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Mustangs were picked to finish fourth this season.
About The Series
- SMU leads the series 106-85. It is the 192nd meeting between TCU and SMU. It is TCU's most played series.
- SMU has won the last five games in the series. TCU's last win was on Nov. 16, 2010, 84-64 in Fort Worth.
- Last season, Alex Robinson had 12 points and 10 assists in a 74-59 loss at SMU.
Top 25 Ranking
TCU is ranked in the AP Top 25 Poll this season for the first time in three years. The Frogs debuted at No. 23 on Nov. 27. Prior to this season, TCU was last ranked on Dec. 22, 2014, coming in at No. 25 after sporting an 11-0 record at the time. Now at No. 20, it is TCU's highest since March 6, 1998 when the Frogs were ranked No. 15. TCU's highest ranking ever is 13, achieved on Feb. 23, 1998.
- As a ranked team, TCU is 40-16 all-time, including 19-2 at home.
- With wins over Belmont and Yale, TCU defeated consecutive opponents as a ranked team for the first time since 1999. Then, TCU beat Colorado State on Jan. 16 and Air Force on Jan. 21. The last time TCU won three-straight games as a ranked team, its third win was against SMU on Jan. 11, 1999, 92-79, as the No. 21 ranked team.
- When No. 20 TCU faces No. 22 Nevada on Friday in Los Angeles, it will be the first time TCU will face a ranked team, while also ranked since March 6, 1998 when No. 20 New Mexico defeated No. 15 TCU 80-73.
- TCU is one of five NCAA DI schools ranked in the Top 25 in football and men's basketball joining Miami, Michigan State, Notre Dame and USC.
All About Shooting
- Desmond Bane ranks No. 1 in field goal efficiency (87.5%) and true shooting percentage (86.3%) according to KenPom.com.
- Bane ranks second in the Big 12 in field goal shooting (69.6%) and second in the Big 12 in 3-point shooting, 20-of-32 (62.5).
- Five TCU players are averaging at least one made 3-pointer per game.
- TCU ranks second in the Big 12 and seventh in the NCAA in field goal shooting (52.5%) and second in the Big 12 and 34th in the NCAA in 3-point shooting (40.8%).
- Over 60 percent of TCU's field goals (256) were assisted (161), a percentage of 62.9. The Frogs rank second in the Big 12 and 4th in the NCAA in assists per game (20.1).
Nation's Longest Win Streak
TCU boasts the nation's longest win streak, having won 13-straight games dating back to last season. The Frogs' last lost came on March 10, 2017, against Iowa State in the semifinals of the Big 12 Championship. As of Tuesday, that last loss was 271 days ago.
- TCU's streak of 13 games ties for the third-longest in school history. TCU won the first 13 games of the 2014-15 season and won 14 straight during the 1987-88 season, Jamie Dixon's season year. The school record for consecutive games won is 16 set during the 1997-98 season.
- During the 13-game streak, Kenrich Williams has produced 10 double-doubles and is averaging 13.6 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.
Basketball Hall of Fame Classic
TCU will participate in the second annual Basketball Hall of Fame Classic. The Frogs wrap up a one-day tripleheader at STAPLES Center with a game against Nevada at 10 p.m. PT/Midnight CT. The game follows Arizona State-St. John's at 5 p.m. PT/7 p.m. CT and USC-Oklahoma at 7:30 p.m. PT/9:30 p.m. CT.